The Reno Tahoe Odyssey is in the books. The race I wasn’t sure I’d ever do again but I’m so glad I did. 178 miles, 2 vans, 12 people – all of us women from our 5:20 am running group. The majority of the women I knew, the ones I didn’t know well I knew very well by the end. It took us just over 30 hours to complete and we had a total of 2 hours of sleep on one of our breaks. People who have never run a relay think you’re crazy and don’t get it but those of us who have taken the leap know all too well how amazing they are.
I was in van two on leg 9. I had done leg 8 the one time I ran the RTO, so I was excited to do something a little different. My three legs totaled 15.4 miles and two were downhill which I love. Our van had two Jennifers, two Stephanies, Robin and Luhzina. We have jokes we can’t really explain but will make us laugh every time and make others think we’re crazy. We talked about silly things, funny things and had moments where we got serious and talked about relationships, kids, suicide, work, family, getting older, and friendships.
We were hitting record highs for temperatures, so it was a brutal race running two of the legs in over 90*. We supported each other well and vans support other teams which rounds out the experience.
My first run was in the afternoon on Friday. Blazing hot and my most difficult leg. I’m still getting over three weeks of bronchitis, so this run got me coughing a lot (which felt good later) and using my inhaler. It was a five mile tough run and I only averaged 11 minute miles, but we weren’t going for speed thankfully. It had a lot of street changes in the beginning, we had to wait for a light at a crosswalk, most of it was on a road with a 55 mph speed limit and zero shade.
My second run was my favorite by far. I started around 1 am and ran 3.65 miles down Kingsbury Grade. I dropped elevation 1000 feet and my average minute miles were 7.47. It sounds crazy because we run on no sleep, in the middle of the night, without streetlights down a steep grade but I love it. I ran down it last time I did RTO – just a different section – and it was my favorite then too. There’s silence out there running alone. The sound of crickets, the air coming up the canyon, the dark, the quiet, the stars and moon. It was peaceful, tranquil and absolutely wonderful. Running this leg made me feel like I could run forever. Everything I love about running was front and center and knowing my lovely teammates were waiting for me at the end gave me more purpose.
We were blessed to have a teammate with an RV. It had been parked in Carson City in the Walmart parking lot and our entire team was able to rotate through getting some sleep. It may have only been two hours, but it felt amazing at 4 am after running two legs each and supporting each other.
With all of us running on two hours of sleep, we decided to leave early the second morning. The race director allowed van 2 to start before our last van one runner was done due to the heat expected that day. We jumped on it and were able to start about an hour early. The only thing that was missing was the wrist band we slapped on each other when we switched runners. No big deal. I was the third runner in our van and the temperatures were hitting over 90* by the time I began and creeping towards 100*.
My final leg was 6.65 miles and remote. Once I left the transition point, I was on a dirt road until I had run 3.6 miles and the van couldn’t access me. It was a downhill run but with the heat and being exhausted, I only averaged a 9 minute mile total for this leg, which isn’t awful all things considered. I loved the first 3.6 miles! Loved it. It was hot, yes, but on dirt, very rocky, twists and turns, trees and shade and just a sweet downhill trial run. Absolutely crazy great. Once I hit pavement, there were vans everywhere including my girls. I got doused with cold water, and sponges which felt great because geez it was hot out.
The next three miles were also downhill and flat, but without trees to block the sun. Between our van and other vans along the way, I had water dumped on me, was sprayed down with water guns and sprinklers four times. It could have happened twice that much. One van refilled my water bottle and everyone was cheering since we were in this event together. My run felt pretty good until the last 3/4 of a mile. I just choked. I walked a little, ran a little and just wanted it to be over. With half a mile to go, van one saw me and handed off the bracelet but I was so shot I was more confused than anything as to why they were there and why I cared about the bracelet. I still took it and said thank you, but I was definitely confused by it.
I finished the run happy to be done and was handed an ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon by another van. Nothing tasted as good as that beer. Usually I don’t like beer after a run, but this? This was absolute bliss in a can. Our first two runners helped two of our last 3 runners because the heat was so high. Waiting for that last runner at the finish line with all the girls felt like a pretty amazing accomplishment. We weren’t super fast, but we were a tight knit group of hard working runners who had forged not only 178 miles, but friendships that endure far longer.